I was born and brought up in Varanasi. After my post-graduation, I pursued a professional degree in Counselling Psychotherapy and Guidance. During my training, I met many patients who were underprivileged and had limited access to healthcare. As I learnt how to attend to patients, understand symptoms, and counsel them, I became more and more interested in working with a charitable hospital.
Just after my graduation, I joined G.S. Memorial Hospital under Dr Subodh, who was my inspiration. I observed him daily as he interacted with patients while making them feel at ease, and slowly but steadily, I started doing the same. Gradually, I started counselling patients and their families. Since many children with untreated clefts have problems with eating and swallowing, I started working with their mothers to explain to them how to breastfeed their children, so that they could be fit and nourished for their surgeries.
In this manner, I have been counselling parents in association with Smile Train India for the past two years. I love taking care of all the children who come my way, and it is a satisfying experience to support parents who need help too. I’ve lost count of how many children I have worked with over this period. My work starts from the time they are born until they turn 9 months old and can have the surgery. Unfortunately, there is a lack of awareness about clefts, and I have to counsel parents every week. People from underserved socio-economic backgrounds are often unable to make hospital visits. The great thing about Smile Train is that they support parents by reimbursing their transport and food costs, and this goes a long way in motivating them to come visit us. These appointments are important, as I can talk to mothers and ensure that their children’s nutrition is being monitored.
Some may assume that because I am a Muslim woman, my family is conservative and doesn’t want me to work. This isn’t true at all - my parents and siblings are very supportive. My mother and sister always encourage me and make hot meals for me after work. They ask after my patients every day. If I don’t go to hospital even for a day, I feel incomplete. Today, I would like to tell everyone out there to never underestimate women… we can do anything!
As shared by Rukhsar Shameem, a counsellor at Smile Train’s partner, G.S. Memorial Hospital in Varanasi.